Raise your hand if you're a dance nerd! Cool, me too. The Royal Ballet is hyping Romeo and Juliet like crazy right now, since the company is launching the 50th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan's timeless production. All this promotion is especially great for those of us outside of the UK because it means tons of gorgeous photos, livestreamed rehearsals, dancer Tweets and official behind-the-scenes footage. If you're like me, and you can't get enough, check out this video of principals Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae in rehearsal. Enjoy!
Lamb as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (photo by Johan Persson, courtesy Royal Opera House)
It’s hard to believe that Kenneth MacMillan’s iconic Romeo and Juliet turns 50
this year: It hasn’t aged a day! In fact, the production is still danced by many ballet companies around the world. To celebrate the work’s golden anniversary, The Royal Ballet—which debuted MacMillan’s Romeo (starring Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev) in 1965—is kicking off its fall season with the classic. But those who aren’t in London don’t have to miss out. The Royal Opera House’s Live Cinema Season, which broadcasts performances from Covent Garden to movie theaters around the globe, will playMacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet on September 22, featuring Royal Ballet principal Sarah Lamb as Juliet. Dance Spirit asked Lamb to talk a little about the role.
On her favorite scene: “The most wonderful part of the whole ballet is the music in Juliet’s death scene. I can’t figure out how Prokofiev was able to get inside Juliet’s mind, but he did! It’s incredible to be onstage backed up by a full orchestra that’s so closely describing your thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes.”
That time when stagecraft went wrong… “During one performance, the glass that holds Juliet’s poison had somehow cracked. So when I took a sip, a few chunks of broken glass dropped into my mouth. My eyes went so wide with fear and shock—though it probably looked really realistic. I didn’t know what to do! In MacMillan’s version, Juliet almost vomits after swallowing the poison, so I used that movement to spit out the glass.”
Julie Kent has danced with American Ballet Theatre for 30 years. That's an impressive career in any context, but it's especially impressive in the world of ballet, where dancers are subject to the whims of their fabulous but frequently fickle bodies.
And Kent isn't just any ballerina. For a whole generation of dancers and dance lovers, she's the ballerina. Who didn't grow up idolizing her? She's Kathleen Donahue from Center Stage. She's the star of that glorious production of Le Corsaire that used to air on PBS every five minutes. If you've been lucky enough to see her live, you know that she's even more luminous onstage than she is onscreen; her willowy frame and beautiful face are made for the spotlight.
Kent will take her final bow with ABT tomorrow night, dancing Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (oh, lord, get those tissues ready) at NYC's Metropolitan Opera House. To help us brace ourselves for that blow, Vanity Fair just published "4 Lessons Learned from a Prima Ballerina," in which Kent shares some of the considerable wisdom she's acquired over the course of her career. One of the highlights is a poetic "merde" note from legend Natalia Makarova—"Someone once said that beauty could save the world. What a great responsibility you have"—that has become a kind of career philosophy for Kent.
There's also this incredible drawing of Kent wearing a dress composed of all the ballets she's performed:
By Michael Arthur, based on a photograph by Roy Round
Click here to read the whole story. And while Kent's farewell performance is, naturally, sold out, the magical internet does have several clips of her dancing Romeo and Juliet. I'd suggest watching the video below—of Kent and Roberto Bolle in the iconic balcony pas de deux—around 9 pm tomorrow, when Kent will actually be dancing it, one last time, at the Met.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Are you wearing pink? Are you eating chocolate? Are you surrounded by flowers? And teddy bears? And heart-shaped cards?
(Am I on a sugar high? Maybe! When it comes to VDay sweets, the DS staff DOES NOT MESS AROUND.)
In honor of the year's most romantic holiday, I thought I'd round up some photos of adorable real-life ballet couples dancing my favorite swoontastic ballet: Romeo and Juliet. Ready to feel the love?
First up: Royal Ballet principals Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg. So happy!
Next: Pennsylvania Ballet principals Julie Diana and Zachary Hench. Heart-clutchingly romantic!
Third: international superstars Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. Literally swoony!
Switching things up a little: Royal Ballet principals Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares rehearsing R&J. The sweetest!
And finally: OK, I'm cheating a little. This is a photo of National Ballet of Canada principals Heather Ogden and Guillaume Côté rehearsing Nijinsky, not Romeo and Juliet. But just suspend your disbelief for a moment, alright? Because the cuteness. THE CUTENESS.
Have a lovely Valentine's Day!
Galen Hooks and Ne-Yo at the 2010 American Music Awards (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
When Galen Hooks danced with Ne-Yo at the 2010 American Music Awards, they paused mid-routine—and kissed. “It was the first time I had to kiss somebody onstage,” Hooks says. “Not only was it televised, but I was really shy about it!” Plus it was, you know, Ne-Yo.
Performing a passionate duet is one thing—but having to kiss your partner in the middle of the choreography can be awkward and nerve-racking, especially in front of an audience. Read on to see how some of your favorite dancers handled their first onstage kisses.
Hooks played two characters in Ne-Yo’s music videos and was on the creative team that choreographed the AMA number. “It was my idea to have the kiss happen,” Hooks admits. “It made sense for the story. When my character kisses him, she goes from being nice to being evil. It was all in fun.”
They didn’t rehearse the kiss during the tech run-through, though. Instead, they stood without making eye contact and waited a few seconds before moving into the next segment. “We only did it on the actual show,” Hooks says. “It was just part of the choreography. There was no romance to it.” Watching the kiss, you’d never guess it was so polite. Ne-Yo grabbed her face and pulled her close. “But there was no tongue or anything!” Hooks laughs. “He’s a true gentleman—very respectful.”
Tiffany Maher and Cole Horibe in Mia Michaels’ routine for the Top 14 on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 9 (Adam Rose)
Tiffany Maher, runner-up on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 9, calls her first onstage kiss—in the Top 14 routine choreographed by Mia Michaels—her “Spiderman kiss”: Cole Horibe hung upside down, spinning, while Maher swung by a rope attached to her wrist. “I had to grab him and smack his lips to mine,” she says. “In rehearsal, we’d smack heads, or I’d end up kissing his nose, or he’d end up kissing my eyeball.” Plus, Maher and Horibe weren’t star-crossed (spinning) lovers: “He’s like my brother,” she says. “It was the hardest kiss of my life!”
Bret Shuford with Andrea Marcovicci in Lady in the Dark (courtesy Bret Shuford)
As Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid, Broadway veteran Bret Shuford kissed Ariel countless times onstage. But his first professional kiss happened years before in a regional theater production of Lady in the Dark, featuring cabaret star Andrea Marcovicci. Shuford played Marcovicci’s high school sweetheart and had to kiss her during a flashback scene. “She’s twice my age,” says Shuford, who was 22 at the time. “When we got to that part, I was supposed to be the one kissing her,” he remembers, “but she was the one kissing me! I just went with it.”
Peter Chu in Dark Matters (Eric Beauchesne/Kidd Pivot)
Peter Chu was going over his choreography before the premiere of Crystal Pite’s Dark Matters at the National Arts Centre in Canada. Pite, who was also his partner for the work’s last duet, gave him a note. “By the way,” she said, “I think you should kiss me.”
Chu was so nervous that he ran back to his dressing room and started practicing the kiss on the back of his hand, all the time worrying that someone was going to walk in on him. “It’s a beautiful show with amazing dancers,” he says, “but I was more stressed about how to kiss her! You don’t want to bump teeth or anything.” So how did it go during the performance? “It was a passionate, desirable kiss,” Chu says. “Very honest.”
Lauren Gottlieb and Dominic Sandoval performing their rumba on “So You Think You Can Dance” (KELSEY MCNEAL/FOX)
On Season 3 of “SYTYCD,” Lauren Gottlieb and Dominic Sandoval wowed the crowd with their rumba. But it wasn’t their dancing that got all the attention—it was their kiss (the first ever on the show)! “When we practiced it in front of the choreographers, they flipped out,” Gottlieb says. “They thought it was way too much.”
Gottlieb and Sandoval decided to run with it. “We went for the shock factor,” Gottlieb says. “But I was young—19—and my boyfriend and whole extended family were in the audience!” Gottlieb was also overwhelmed by the millions of people watching at home. Her nerves caused an awkward moment at the end when they were both breathing so hard their lips came apart. “He tried to go back in and my head was moving away,” she says.
The Juliets|For some ballerinas, the first onstage kiss is a gentle peck on the lips in
The Sleeping Beauty or an innocent smooch in La Fille mal gardée. But these ballet dancers were thrown into the deep end, having to bring the passion in Romeo and Juliet.
Carla Körbes with former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Lucien Postlewaite in Roméo et Juliette (Angela Sterling)
In Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Carla Körbes has to do more than just kiss her partner. “There’s a section where we’re rolling around in bed kissing,” Körbes says. “Then we go under the covers.” She and her partner, Lucien Postlewaite, rehearsed it in the studio so they wouldn’t feel awkward later. “It was more like acting than a ballet kiss,” she says. “It felt like a movie experience.”
Luckily for Körbes, what shows on film doesn’t always show onstage. “The first time, my nose was kind of running and I was crying during the second act,” she says. “We were kissing and all of a sudden there was snot everywhere! At that point we didn’t know what was happening, but when we got offstage, we were dying laughing.”
Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild in Peter Martins’ Romeo + Juliet (Paul Kolnik)
“When you’re doing something like Romeo + Juliet, everything from an arabesque to the kiss is full of meaning,” says Sterling Hyltin, a principal with New York City Ballet. Hyltin was 21 when Peter Martins choreographed the tragic love story for her and NYCB’s Robert Fairchild.
“I didn’t know if he would kiss me in rehearsals,” she says. “But it happened from the get-go. It was happening in the music, so that’s what we did.” Six years later, Hyltin says she and Fairchild save the kiss for the stage. “All that matters is the moment,” Hyltin says. “If you really believe what you’re doing, there’s nothing strange about kissing somebody you don’t kiss in real life.”
Victoria Jaiani in After the Rain (Herbert Migdoll)
At 18, Victoria Jaiani danced her first Juliet with Joffrey Ballet. “They hired Jason Reilly, then a principal from Stuttgart Ballet, to come dance with me,” she says. “He was an incredible partner and everything worked out well, even though we only had a few days to rehearse before we got onstage.”
The first time they rehearsed full-out in the studio, Jaiani felt comfortable. “You get so involved and live in the moment,” she says. “It felt natural to kiss him. It would’ve been weird not to. I wanted to be kissed.” Jaiani remembers the first show, at the end of the balcony scene, when her Romeo unexpectedly gave her an extra goodnight kiss. “I was surprised because we hadn’t rehearsed it that way,” she says. “It just happened.”
What a month it's been at American Ballet Theatre. Over the past few weeks, we've had to say goodbye to two of the company's most charismatic guys: Angel Corella, who is now the head of Barcelona Ballet; and Ethan Stiefel (aka Cooper Nielson), who recently took the helm of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Both Corella and Stiefel have been wowing ABT audiences for years. It felt like the end of an era.
But then, last Friday, came the news that two dancers had been promoted. The gorgeous Hee Seo, fresh off a whole bunch of triumphant performances during ABT's Met season, is now a principal; dashing Alexandre Hammoudi, who recently danced his first Romeo (alongside Seo's Juliet), is now a soloist.
It was sort of perfect that the company announced their promotions in the wake of those two big retirements. Yes, it's the end of one era—but it's also the beginning of another.
We'll miss you, Angel and Ethan—and congratulations, Hee and Alexandre!
Most people celebrate Valentine's Day with candy hearts and teddy bears and red roses. But much as I'm a total sap for all of that stuff, my favorite VDay tradition is watching this clip of Alessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca in the balcony pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet. (It's from the 1998 video American Ballet Theatre Now: Variety and Virtuosity.)
I used to love this film for the wrong reasons. Pretty feet and legs were at the top of my bunhead checklist when I was 15, and Ferri's ridiculous arches were enough to keep me hitting rewind for days. But as I grew up a little, I began to understand the power of Ferri and Bocca's famous partnership—particularly in this, their signature ballet. In 1998, both dancers were in the autumns of their careers. But in this recording they're utterly believable as star-crossed teenagers, vulnerable and fragile and yet completely secure in the strength of their love. And they have sublime chemistry—it's like an intoxicating perfume.
Ferri and Bocca's R&J has been compared to that of another iconic duo, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. I believe that Fonteyn and Nureyev were just as magical. But while I can appreciate their rendition of the pas de deux, I've never been able to feel its power through my computer screen. I think it's the kind of thing you had to have seen live to understand (if only I'd been able to!).
I never saw Ferri and Bocca dance R&J live either. But for some reason, their film alter-egos are enough to knock me out. It's a different kind of rush. And it's my favorite Valentine's Day treat.